tv The General vs. the President CSPAN December 19, 2016 4:00am-5:16am EST
above rainy day books we are happy to have all of you here and we hope you'll frequent other programs. also to welcome renowned presidential historian who goes by bill by the way, and a very distinguished historian has written books about several presidents reagan, fdr, roosevelt, and of course, tremendous book we talk about tonight to. very well-received of finalists for the pulitzer prize on a few different occasions. coming from the university of texas in austin where he taught at vanderbilt and texas a&m with a graduate work in mathematics in history and an interesting combination.
[laughter] born in oregon, i was intrigued by the fact he comes across the american west. [laughter] that is unique and interesting. we will have the informal discussion and then look toward to questions as well. i have read of book and i think you will find it very balanced and interesting take on both truman and macarthur. a very interesting topic here and as time goes on on, and this is a very solid piece around for a good time
to explain a moment in our nation's history and the inter workings of foreign policy is a solid contribution. i want to start by asking, belittled about talking about treatment and is free desire to rebuild europe and what you do with the vanquished. he learned his lesson from world war i and macarthur had a similar outlook in asia living in japan, i thought it was interesting away he set that up so explain to the audience they start off on a similar page and similar philosophy and they end up in very different places. >> and my first exposure
came from my first visit here. because i was writing about american foreign policy and i encountered truman. macarthur was the smaller story because of the look korean war but trim and pretty much revolutionized america's approach to a the world because 150 years the united states abandoned its alliance in the late 18th century on the advice of george washington to avoid the alliance. to turn the back line europe. and left the door open.
and everybody in truman's generation but the world cannot be left to its own devices. so that led to the marshall plan. the united states wednesday in europe to ensure that europe would be strong once again. the american leaders did not want to be on the hook to support germany forever so the idea was to revive the great countries and the united states would help guide them on the path to democracy and prosperity. so what they were doing in europe and is sought - - a simultaneously doing in japan there was no marshall plan lead of the single-minded effort to
reshape this country that has been america's enemy and to make it into a country that ideally was america's front. >> i want to check quick is his microphone cutting in and out? provide hate to interrupt the flow by one to make sure we can hear the rest. can we bump that up a and little bit? >> just don't move. [laughter] normally i stand up and jump around. >> but you do get the sense it in your book that generally there is so much
focus on europe for the truman administration and you seem macarthur as a lone voice who rarely is speaking about asia and for ham protecting europe seemed to be the priority that macarthur just had that focus but why do think it was that? >> truman's emphasis is what he inherited during world war two. so they found themselves into theaters for pre-war in europe and the roosevelt administration called the united states focusing the war in europe first with the belief through the european heartland was the center of global talent so with knotty germany were defeated they
can be easily afterwards they would be as much trouble so this was the thinking during world war two ended translated very easily that meanwhile macarthur was commander of allied forces in the southwest pacific was focusing on the pacific not just during rolled 42 but he inherited this asian-pacific area because early in the 20th century hickey had accompanied his father to asia and macarthur himself was sent out from the united states to the philippines there still an american colony to oversee the military transition of the philippines from the cali to
the independent countries so macarthur came as a field marshal and sold his entire career was centered on a shot. and he had that haven't to think of their theater as a whole world. during world war two macarthur would continually talk to george marshall to say be need to focus on the pacific. and roosevelt had to tune him out but macarthur never changes mind and during the cold war the caribbean or the conflict is where the cold war will be won or lost >> very interesting. can you talk about the
strength of your book when you talk about their personalities. and you treat that in a balanced way. you have to very strong personalities coming together nobody is a hero. you say that to know him is to love him or hate him. you cannot just like tim. see you have this personality that to is a classic clash. can you talk about how this affects the story quite. >> one of the things that attracted me to this story are these two distinctive personalities but very different types because macarthur is larger than life, and sits on top of a mountain and was a live and
people gave him advice but he made his decisions he was alone figure that was his personality style and is of mistreated and governing style. and patients say that he was born for greatness. his father was a civil war hero and it was expected he would go into military. first in his class at west point, he was the star of his generation of the american military. harry truman was a political hack from kansas city who managed to get elected to the senate than almost by accident became vice president when franklin roosevelt needed to stop a mutiny in the democratic party where the democrats
could see roosevelt probably was not wrong and could not bear the idea that the then vice president would become president. so he waved his finger and said cam. so truman has to be talked into it. than three months later he was flabbergasted so with tremendous of personality grows into the presidency but the personality grows on you. truman was not somebody who was impressed but macarthur did better truman sneaks up on you so we have the stars and the celebrity then be under dog. so this classic clash of
[inaudible] >> diane appreciate that comment because it dense point doubt the popular perception of the american people he thought he was a great hero, the person who once loved war to substantiate something that continues the threat. i had not meant or heard of somebody who served under macarthur that hated his guts because in the philippines in never came out of the dugout and he abandoned his troops and
they were left to suffer while he went to australia and got a medal of honor while fleeing the philippines. is a very striking statement that what he could project. the sycophantic the people of around him than there was a broader public who only knew through those press releases that he gave he was good in managing the press but those following his orders to do what he said they had not much use for him. . .
macarthur went to his grave saying if i could have gone after china and fought against china we would have won world war iii and he was able to say, and the soviet union would not have entered the war against us. this was the position he took public which is why he ultimately got fired. he was able to get away with saying that because the if part was never qualified. in any event he could say if he had done this and no one can prove him wrong and macarthur had sufficiently high esteem for his own views that you really had to prove him wrong for him to entertain the thought.
let's take another question right here. [inaudible] [inaudible] >> well with patton, patton said the united states ought to go ahead and attack the soviet union. this was the mindset you could call them sorted the battlefield general although mccarthy was not a battlefield general but he did have the attitude in this one was widely shared because world war ii became the model for americans the way wars often thought.
in american history these all-out wars and with traditional surrender the enemy, that was the anomaly. that's not the way wars usually end that after world war ii because this was the signature war for an entire generation of americans, we were attacked, we go all out and it's relatively short. we went and we come home and that's that. most wars are limited in one sense or another but it's also what macarthur was dealing with n. korea because american seemed very frustrated at americans in ability to win this war against a clearly inferior enemy. so that was essential to the rift between truman and macarthur. the second part the buck stopping with terry chairman gatto there's no question about that and he gets back to what i was saying about the responsibility and irresponsibility. smart -- macarthur good
behavior sponsor we precisely because the burden was not on him to preserve american interests around the world and to consider the world as a whole. he had this theater commanders notion where this theater was where everything happened and truman had to deal with the whole thing. >> you know speaking of truman being in that role one of the things we celebrate about truman especially today that we appreciate they about harry truman is the fact that he was a man who had to make a lot of tough decisions and within four months of being as you said the president who didn't really want to be president, and yet in your book we see truman kind of waffle from the question of the 38th parallel and waffles on korea and even his support for macarthur. do you think there is anything about the subject matter about
korea or macarthur that would cause him to question our celebration of harry truman? >> i would say celebrating harry truman is certainly as far as i go in the book. i give truman his due but i don't think i give him any more than his due and he was extempore sing in korea the way he was here. when he became president in 1945 p. didn't have the marshall plan he was able to work his way through things and so in dealing with korea and in dealing with macarthur the first thing to keep in mind is that the outbreak of fighting in korea to truman by surprise, to macarthur by surprise and took everybody by surprise in the second thing was they took the economy side by surprise but the united states so swiftly went to
the defense of south korea because the united states had declared that korea was not part of america's national security zone. carillo was not strategically important to the united states and when americans, with united states pulled their troops out of korea in 1949 they had no idea that the united states would be sending troops back in. what happened between the pullout and going back and was that the communists won the chinese civil war and the sort of changed everything because now communism is on the march and furthermore it's worth bearing in mind that the north atlantic treaty was barely a year old when the korean war broke out in the north atlantic treaty changed everything for the united states because for the first time since the 18th century the united states was committed to a peacetime alliance in the united states had pledged if somebody pass one
of our nato allies we would go to the defense of that ally so america's credibility was on the line. american credibility became -- american credibility was on the line in korea so the united states you to respond to this additional communist aggression and initially this was going to be simply a defensive maneuver. the soviet delegate not being present as the security council at the time the war broke out than it was possible the united states and south korea under the aegis of the united nations so it's a u.n. operation in the authorization said that south korea will be liberated and that's it. didn't say invade north korea but when he engineered this and ron and nearly captured the entire north korean army at that point truman and macarthur got
greedy and they decided you know what's why stop at the 38th parallel? we can clear the calmness out of all of korea. it turned out it was a bad decision. to complete the caption of the north korean border. and it brought american forces up close to the border with china. and this is where they were serious misinterpretation. they said that south korean troops came up against the border with china no big deal but if american troops come close to the border with china that will be a big deal and china will have to intervene. there were strong voices muslim month of republicans who said the united states ought to reopen the chinese civil war and there are people like macarthur who said exactly that.
macarthur is the american commander in korea so macarthur is sending american troops against china's border. the chinese warned and macarthur didn't believe it. harry truman flew all the way from washington to wake island 14,000 miles meet with macarthur who didn't have the the -- fly to washington to greet the president. he wouldn't even come happily to san francisco. he said sorry wake island is as far as i can go but truman was willing to humor a carter because at that point macarthur was telling him the war is almost over. truman had strong suspicions and his willingness to obey orders but it looked as though they were sober. and it's important to bear in mind that in the minds of many americans douglas macarthur clearly outranked harry truman it's true. truman was president of the united states and constitutionally commander-in-chief but harry
truman had risen to the rank of military captain of artillery. macarthur was a five-star general for heaven sakes. macarthur saying he told truman at wake island the chinese will never dare to enter the war and if we do we will annihilate them. a month later turned us into the war and if anybody is getting annihilated its not china's american forces. i think we have to go all out against time and we did the soviet union will never enter the war. that point chairman realized macarthur --. >> sir would you be willing to compare donald trump's personality macarthur's? [laughter] >> no. >> douglas macarthur was his
favorite general and i could understand if he and macarthur knew a lot of people because especially when united states is fighting a limited war is some ways like the war in korea. united states really has military support. he has the boteri force to defeat north korea but their reasons for united states does not bring its military forces there. but it does lead to frustration on the part of all the people. we have this great oteri power and we spend millions of dollars every year. we need more generals like macarthur and it's natural except when trump says and when trump says when he went on to say and he would have his generals giving interviews
that's when i say he does not know macarthur because macarthur gave interview after interview after interview. that's the reason he got fired by harry truman. actually there are sometimes the depression surrounds truman's decision and it wasn't as though truman, i mean truman did have a a -- there's no question about that but he didn't fire macarthur because he was mad at macarthur. he didn't fire macarthur for insubordination because he technically didn't violate anything. he fired macarthur because macarthur was deliberately creating confusion as to what american policy toward communist powers was and when the president of united states would say we are trying to keep this war in korea contained in limited and then the commander of american forces agree we need
to expand the war against china then the world got involved in truman decided i don't want the world -- and this is something that's important to keep in mind and that is harry truman was very sensitive to the possibility of nuclear war, more sensitive than anybody else because harry truman held and still holds that distinction of being the only person in all of human history ever to order the use of atomic weapons during wartime. now chairman claims in his memoirs and in post-war instances that they thought very seriously about using the bomb against japan but when he gave the decision afterwards he didn't give it a second thought. i'm not sure i believe that and if i believe it i'm not sure i like it because that's a huge decision.
i would like to think. truman's spent a few sleepless nights over it but i will tell you this though, it was very sensitive to the possibility where as world war ii ended with the use of nuclear weapons world war iii would begin with a nuclear weapon. one other chronological coincidence here was that just months before the war in korea began the soviet union tested its first atom bomb. so from 1945 through let's say the berlin blockade and the berlin crisis, the united states could contemplate using nuclear weapons and not have to worry about nuclear weapons against the united states but truman understood the war in korea somehow went nuclear in the united states would be on the receiving end of the soviet nuclear arms. >> we go take another question. anybody have one? yeah, right there.
>> it seems like the korean war in truman are in example of control. [inaudible] were there other instances prior to the war where we have these examples of limited war? >> sure. i would say pretty much every war since world war ii was a limited war so the war of 1812 ended in a failing. united states, the united states did not take all of mexico. award in spain the united states
never invaded spain and in fact in conditional surrender aspect of world war ii was a little bit over john because it wasn't a political decision. a political position was to utterly destroy the nazi regime and the reason for this was world war i fought another war that ended in a limited fashion and it was a cease-fire, an armistice and the german government still remain. it was quickly overthrown in a revolution but it wasn't defeated by the allied forces and the reason for the policy of unconditional surrender for germany was to prevent what happened during the 1920s and the 1930s when adolf hitler said we didn't lose that war, we were betrayed and he he was betrayed by the jewish and that was one reason he was able to pick on the jewish. i was the glue that held the grand alliance together. the british the americans and the soviets agreed on one thing
and that was the need to destroy nazis in germany. i would add the war in the pacific not end in unconditional surrender. in fact it was a conditional surrender that the condition was you have to keep it. that was a huge deal that was something something that americans by then were sufficiently weary of war but they also realized that japan was comparatively small potatoes compared to germany. there would have been a whole lot of anger and upset with united states of the war in europe had ended and the american said you know what let's keep them in power. that's essentially what happened in japan. the emperor because americans during the war had been led to believe that the emperor was behind all of this stuff and there was a question as to how much responsibility you have have to have that the reason for this was the american leadership and macarthur contributed to this although it wasn't his decision entirely and recognize
that after the war ends is going to be really handy to have an emperor at their because the emperor will help me, macarthur, govern. so this idea that america fights this war all out and then it stops, that was this anomaly and it really applied primarily to the war in europe. and so the limited conflict the united states has been, these are standard in warfare. it's very rare that one side gets utterly defeated and throwing salt in the wounds of macarthur or something like that. that doesn't happen all the time. >> i'm going to have to borrow your microphone. i wanted to move into talking a little bit about the aftermath of the relieving of macarthur and sort of what it is meant to both of those. you make a very eloquent statement toward the end that truman basically sealed his own faith by doing this and there
were reasons to do that but it's interesting to me that macarthur ends up discrediting himself and the way he describes it. i wanted to read after he comes back to a hero's welcome he addresses the conference and testifies before the committee and then the committee starts talking to other people in need administrations. he got a very different picture of why things have happened and they were much more sympathetic to truman although it was never made public. the testimony remain sealed and that like to have you respond. these people who heard this testimony or had given the testimony, they didn't shake hands in public. they wouldn't give truman that satisfaction but they no longer looked at macarthur's occurred credible alternative military strategy or politics.
bees away from the general and because the testimony was the deal they never said why and macarthur never -- i think that's intriguing. can you talk about how that differs from today? >> i would be happy to run as one of the things that led me back to the story. first encountered the truman mccarthy story. don't feel obliged to answer the don't want to. how many of you remember from your own life when these events happened? maybe remember hearing macarthur got fired. the reason i asked the question is i was born in 1953 so i learned about it in school and i personally came across it when i was in fact doing research at the truman library so i knew generally about the story that there were some part of the story that didn't quite add up, didn't make sense and it had to do with the fact that macarthur gets fired and most
of the american people blame harry truman for being either or believed an economist or something like that. macarthur comes home to this hero's welcome and there's a giant ticker tape parade. he gives his speech and this is at the dawn of the age of television and in fact these days you can go on youtube and you can punch up macarthur's speech to congress. it is a fantastic speech. i don't think i've ever seen a political speech that is more effective. he got people to cheer and when he wanted them them to cry and got them to cry when he wanted them to cry and his last line, old soldiers never die, they just fade away. oh my gosh. if in fact congress had been the republican nominating convention at that point he would have gotten the nomination right there. it was a speech like we and jenninf bryans speech. it would have carried him there
and then shortly after that he goes to a joint committee meeting of the armed services and foreign nations to basically tell the members of the committee about what truman had gotten it wrong and the station and its having to do with the firing. for three days he gives his disposition on why his approach was right and why the president was wrong. and then the senate calls other members george marshall at this point secretary defense in dean acheson the secretary of state and omar bradley the secretary of -- and various other service chiefs. most americans thought the testimony was over. they thought these hearings were over because every day they read in the newspapers page after page after page, "the new york times" the testimony in the transcript ran eight to 10 pages, full pages. the american people were buried in this testimony and they all
got the impression that these were opened hearings but they weren't. they were actually closed hearings but they were 99.8% open because there were transcriptionists and the transcriptionist released it the next day so they were following along. after all they have heard they thought they heard the whole story but they hadn't. it was the part that they hadn't heard it was kind of this mystery to me because i knew this part about how macarthur comes home and there were people within the truman administration was strongly suspected macarthur put truman up to the firing because they wanted macarthur to get fired so he could come home and run for president. he clearly was planning to run for president and what better way than to run against harry truman who had made the mistake of hiring him. so he sets himself up for this and he gets his testimony and he is this really popular guy. in fact there is a town in texas
called truman texas and the town said we have got to rename it. they were much more in favor of macarthur. this political balloon launches very promisingly and macarthur goes on campaign tours and he gives speeches around the country and he just lashes and to truman. all the while still wearing an army uniform with his five stars truman have the sense not to say anything in response. he relates the okay i need to get macarthur and if rove to hang himself but what a carter didn't realize what truman didn't really see there was macarthur had already hung himself but nobody knew it. so when i first came across this story in the 1980s i couldn't figure out why the air leaked out of the helium i guess we got of macarthur's balloon the way it did.
it was just going up really well and then his campaign didn't go anywhere. turns out, the reason i couldn't figure it out then was i said 99.8% of the testimony was really, with that .2% was capped because these were closed hearings and there were moments when george marshall would say to the person transcribing, okay this cannot be with release. it has to be kept off the record and what he said basically he gave chapter and verse why macarthur's approach in china was first of all wrongheaded but secondly when the carpenter would complain about having to fight the chinese with one hand tied behind his back and how this limited war was working to the benefit of the chinese, well marshall and chairman of the joint chiefs and wade vanderburg is the joint chief ugandan terror legal wrong that this war
was working in or her benefit. the reason that had to be kept private was that marshall and bradley and the american leadership, they didn't want to advertise to the chinese into the soviets we are as stressed as we can be an vanderburg says this american air force is really just a shoestring air force in pretty much every spare plane is fighting korea. while this would be an invitation to the soviets, okay so you want to move on berlin, go ahead. that's why was kept secret but it's also why neither i nor most anybody else could figure out what happened to macarthur's political balloon. it just comes down and he never found out why. between that time and counter the story and i wrote this book the rest of the testimony was released so i could read what they were saying. those really bitter anti-german voices on these committees the ones who were in favor of the
carpenter who wouldn't been his strongest support to run for president they realized oh my god if this guy had done what he wanted to do then we really would be in world war iii. they are the ones who walked away and macarthur really never did find out what happened. and of course the other thing was that there was another general who decided to throw his hat in the ring. he realized hey maybe it's time for general eisenhower had this common touch that macarthur utterly lacks. if macarthur had run for president age of george washington, when you could present yourself as being better than everyone else he might have had a chance. you had to be that good --. >> another question? go ahead. >> the evaluations by bradley
they had the advantage at a particular place and time and they did and they would've had a greater vantage if the date is states was deeper into the war in asia. but macarthur never believed he was wrong. about what happened in china because the way he put that to treatment is that the soviets will not respond. to his credibility was not a great after china. >> i was of a child in europe my dad is in the national guard but what i am
>> [inaudible] >> but truman came on when head -- history really did indicate truman when he left office 1953 the most unpopular president in history before or since. is popular approval rating was lowered and nixon during watergate. he could have run for president again even the democrats want him to get out so he says enough's. so the popularity remains very low through the '50s when americans looked at the outcome of correa and to say it is half-hearted is not something we want to repeat so macarthur that truman
stock begins to rise and was repeated end vietnam's. there were worse outcomes but by 1968 lyndon johnson would have given his right arm bent it really wasn't for more than a decade after that it begins to soar and not until after the cold war because truth men is a central policy of containment that said that communism will defeat it so all we have to do is prevented from spreading and
make sure we don't blow up the world with a world war iii. by the early 1990's it was clear rhythmical the war had ended on chairman stearns's is what he said would have been. and farsighted so at that point that treatment becomes , that'd is warren harding and in the 1990's he will probably stay there. right during in lincoln and
>> so first with foreign policy and it was a different world that chairman inhabited because at that time up through the 1980's both political parties or a coalition. with the of liberal republicans as well as conservative republicans and not to be have bipartisan domestic policy. in to understand that possibility and it was very
important to him to come on board and was possible to do that then. treatment could be seen as of model for this is what you try to do of policy. but the parties unchanged when lyndon johnson nailed the math of the democratic party because when and johnson did was begin sifting out the political parties so the first saying is an those republicans as they slowly gravitated out to become republican.
here we are 70 years. >> buried harry truman was given a lot of credit for that. he was a bold president domestically as well he did not get much credit for that but operate congress was not willing to go there getting support from his own party from consort -- if felt no desire especially 1948 election so the republicans say they will win to hold
the white house and with american politics they just add that. in to give any success on civil-rights and those at had legislation to order for example, of military to desegregate law eisenhower was elected chairman did try to get him run as a democrat in 1948 and said this was right after he became president and became more comfortable and by the time
military was the segregated when an american forces were beaten up and they had to throw whenever they had. they started to put it to black soldiers with white soldiers the army said it would not ruin raw so they all discovered so they can do the job it is so k.. so was the order so he gets credit for pushing in that direction.
and ended up dying in a hospital so to this day you can forget macarthur but never our military. in then trying to identify all of the of relatives in to be put to rest. to the government and all of military. [applause] >> so adjust wine and final question so what does this moment in history tell us? with those imitations of the
supremacy in this way to talk about the truman doctrine? what is the big takeaway quickly you have done the great job to make this the moment in history. what do we gain from this? >> this is the of moment to with did the administration some presidents are reluctant and they want those decisions as a consensus reached at the of lower-level. ensure unwanted to hear that opposing view.
so true mint demonstrated the nature of leadership is not afraid of a challenge so he tolerated macarthur for a long time. mentioning that constitutional aspect, since harry truman because calling him a nobody. fired macarthur through this most celebrated decorated soldier there has never been any serious challenge and is it is taken as of matter of course, this is how we run things in this country. but there is one uphold small aspect with his understanding for the office
that he held a. and sometimes the office of of president has not been held with that type of respect when truman has decided and intended macarthur would receive the news personally from the secretary of war. thank but the truman white house got wind that heard about this and would resign ahead of being released and cannot give that satisfaction. and prepares a press conference in the press release that he needs to be
relieved of his duties. and the top civilian military. but they said not to night to the world will know that i am president of the united states and of firing douglas macarthur. tamara they can find out it was on the advice of everybody else but as president i will take the heat. [applause] >> celebrated author and historian has a fantastic